UND leaders outline vision for national security corridor

Jan. 25—BISMARCK — Leaders of national security initiatives at UND spent time Wednesday telling lawmakers how $14 million in past legislative appropriations is being spent.

The funds — provided in the previous legislative biennium — are being used to finance initiatives at UND through a collaborative effort, called the national security corridor. The corridor will involve collaboration between UND's College of Engineering and Mines, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and College of Arts and Science. It will be housed in a renovated Harrington Hall, with a tentative completion date set for this summer.

UND President Andrew Armacost expressed gratitude for the committee's support of the university's national security initiatives, which he said is particularly important given the low level of direct Department of Defense funding allocated to North Dakota.

"At a recent National Defense Industrial Association conference, there was a graph presented about the level of DOD funding allocated to each state in the union," Armacost said during the meeting. "North Dakota was number 50 on that list. Through the generous support of the Legislature, we see tremendous growth opportunities on the national security front."

Armacost also referenced UND's unique relationship with the United States Space Force. UND was the first university to sign a partnership agreement with the Space Force, a relationship Armacost attributes to the Space Force's high level of investment in the region.

"The operations center for the U.S. Space Development Agency's satellite division will be headquartered at Grand Forks Air Force Base," said Armacost. "The reason they chose to come to Grand Forks was significantly influenced by what UND offers."

Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, said construction is underway for a new space operations classroom in Robin Hall. The classroom will be able to accommodate up to 16 students at a time, and will be used for the instruction of aerospace engineering, astrophysics and orbital mechanics.

Kraus also expressed enthusiasm about the space studies department's relationship with the military, with the department's master's degree program serving as a conduit into the military.

"Anywhere between a third and half of our space studies students are active military," said Kraus. "We are effectively the main space studies master's program for the military. We also have a long history of support with the Air Force and Army ROTC programs. The idea is to develop a class that teaches cadets basic space operations, so that every commissioned officer has a background in space when they graduate."

Of the $14 million appropriated by the Legislature for the corridor, UND has spent $2,584,145, with the bulk of spending — $2,006,073 — going toward an advanced UAV and satellite assembly lab.

Brian Tande, dean of the College of Engineering and Mines, said the lab will be used by UND and industry partners for the development of advanced satellite technology. The facility will also contain a cleanroom, to prevent interference and damage from moisture and dust particles.

Tande also said the lab will provide students studying engineering and computer science with workforce development opportunities, such as the ability to conduct their senior capstone projects using the facilities equipment.

Ryan Adams, assistant dean of national security, also said the national security corridor will contain a sensitive compartmented information facility of SCIF, where discussion of classified information will be permitted for those with the appropriate security clearance.